How Does Getting Hacked Affect Your Website or Online Business?
As a business owner, protecting your personal and customer data and ensuring the security of your website has to be one of your top daily priorities.
While you may believe that only large businesses and corporations are at risk of being hacked, the truth is that the number of cyber attacks on small online businesses has only intensified.
In fact, 43% of all cyber attacks are aimed directly against small businesses.
Unfortunately, very few online business owners truly understand the importance of securing their website or the ramifications of what can and will happen if they are hacked. The result being, these business owners take minimal to no action to actually secure their website(s) against hackers.
That’s why it’s important to understand the consequences of being hacked so you can get motivated to take action and better secure your website against cyber attacks.
How Hackers Attack Your Website
In order to understand how getting hacked will affect your business website, it’s important to first understand what hacking methods attackers are most likely to use against you.
BRUTE FORCE ATTACK
The attack that is most likely to be used against your website, simply because it’s the most common hacking attack there is, is called a ‘brute force’ attack. This is where an attacker will use hacking software or malicious scripts to try and guess your password repeatedly until they are able to figure it out and gain access.
Another common attack is called an XSS, or Cross Site Scripting, attack. This is where a hacker will inject a malicious script into your site after you click a malevolent link or download a malevolent attachment. The hacker will then have the ability to add their script to every page of your site and redirect incoming traffic to another website.
One more common attack is called an SQL Injection. This is where an attacker will enter malicious characters into an unsecured form in an attempt to exploit your website’s database. They will then have access to retrieve passwords, credit/debit card numbers, home addresses and usernames.
What Are The Consequences Of Your Website Being Hacked?
There are many consequences that you will have to endure if your website is indeed ever hacked with any of the above hacking methods.
These include, but are not limited to:
If your website is hacked, you or any of your customers can become the victims of identity theft if your personal and financial information is stolen.
In fact, personal and financial information is one of the number one reasons hackers will attempt to break into websites. Most of the time, hackers will either later sell that information to clients for use in identity theft rather than using it themselves or use it for ransom.
YOUR SITE’S SPEED SLOWS DOWN
Another reason a cybercriminal may attempt to hack into your website is to store thousands of files, such as illegal information or pirated music and movies, and then run those files on your server.
This will greatly slow down your website’s speed, and not only will that cause you to lose out on the already short attention spans of your visitors, but it will also cause your SEO rankings to take a hit.
The algorithms Google uses to rank web pages will take into account your website’s speed. Websites with the slowest speeds are penalized and will subsequently be ranked lower.
Even if you are using a quality web host provider that should allow your pages to be loaded in only two seconds or less, hackers can still overload your server to the point that your site speed really starts to slow down, and an ‘ERROR 500’ page will likely show up when someone clicks the link to your website. This will inevitably bring traffic to a screeching halt. One of the best ways to identify compromised websites is to look at your host’s audit logs.
Since website hacking can both potentially slow down your website speed to rank you lower on the search engine results page and steal your customers’ personal and financial information, it’s safe to say that website hacking is simply bad for business.
WEB HOSTS COULD SUSPEND YOUR ACCOUNT
One of the reasons hackers will attack your website is to use your IP address to launch attacks on other targeted websites or to blast out spam emails.
When one IP address is repeatedly used to attack other websites, it’s very easy for it to be discovered because email servers will keep a record of the specific IP addresses that are sending out spam emails.
If you are hacked and your IP address is used by hackers to send out spam emails, your web host will find out from your email server and they will then suspend your account once they realize you’ve been compromised.
YOUR SITE COULD CRASH COMPLETELY
If you ever click the link to a page on your site and you see a blanket white screen with a "PAGE NOT FOUND - 404 ERROR" message, it’s a clear sign that your website has been hacked, and you’ll want to take action right away to solve the problem.
It’s completely normal for your website to crash temporarily if you or a developer is modifying it. But a blank white screen with a 404 ERROR message is not normal.
What this means that your hacker broke into your website and then made enough modifications or changes for the website to crash. When your website crashes completely like this, there will be literally no traffic coming to your website at all.
YOUR REPUTATION WILL TAKE A BIG HIT
Last but not least, when your website is hacked it’s safe to say that your reputation is going to take a hit, and hopefully for obvious reasons.
In fact, if your customer financial data gets stolen and used in identity theft, you can be held legally liable for the lost data, you’re in for a nasty court fight and customers simply won’t feel comfortable working with you.
What Are Steps You Can Take To Protect Your Business Website?
Now that we understand some of the methods cybercriminals will use to break into your website and the primary consequences of being hacked, you’re probably naturally wondering, ‘what are some steps I can take right now to protect my website?’
Even though this is really a different subject entirely and worth another article in its right, we can still touch on some key security concepts here.
First and foremost, you will need to tighten your network security. You can do this by using a password manager to set strong passwords and store and change them regularly, enabling two factor authentication to log in, and scanning each device plugged into your network for malware before they are allowed access.
Another step you can and should take will be to enable a Web Application Firewall (WAF), which can be used to monitor your website and detect malware and other malicious attacks. For example, DreamHost is a WAF that is often used for WordPress websites.
One more example of a step you can take will be to set up an SSL certificate, which means that the data being transmitted between your server and the browser of the user will be kept more secure and will be more difficult for hackers to intercept.
Google will also take notice of your website being SSL certified, and subsequently, they’ll rank your website higher in the search rankings. So not only does becoming SSL certified provide a layer of defense against hackers, it will also help make your website more visible, which will undoubtedly lead to better business.
Hopefully, by reading this article you will feel inspired to take action to learn more about how to defend your website against hackers and take the appropriate action.
To summarize, by failing to take steps to protect your business website against hackers, you run the risk of:
Your personal and customer data being used in identity theft crimes
Your website speed being slowed down considerably
Your web host suspending your account
Your site crashing completely
Your business reputation falling dramatically
Millions of websites are hacked each year and fall victim to one or more of the above possible ramifications, but you don’t have to.